This information has been collated to provide context leading up to the Docklands Summit.
We encourage you to click through the tabs to review:
- a chronological history of Docklands
- a profile of Docklands and the role of the Neighbourhood Plans
- an overview of key policies
- the impact of COVID-19 on Docklands
- current initiatives in Docklands
- a map of major projects underway or committed
- the ownership, roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in Docklands.
If viewing on mobile, hold and swipe tabs left to view all.
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Docklands was a swampy wetland, used by the Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri People, as a hunting ground and meeting place.
Prior to European Settlement
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Docklands evolved as an industrial areas supporting a range of industries, before being developed as a port in the late 1800s.
Following European Settlement
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Docklands was home to the West Melbourne gas works, rail industry, an explosives magazine and a pottery works.
A number of other noxious industries such as abattoirs, fellmongeries and tanneries set up in the area due to the proximity to water and isolation from Melbourne township.
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Construction of Victoria Dock commenced in the late 1880s and was completed in 1982, which involved a major dredging exercise removing 2.3million cubic metres of earth that was used to fill West Melbourne Swamp.
Central Pier was constructed in 1916 to expand the port operations. Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, Vitoria Dock was Melbourne’s busiest dock, handling an estimated 90% of all Victoria’s imports, which included a wide range of cargo, including coal, steel, animals, wool and wheat.
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The growth of containerised cargo saw Swanson Dock being constructed in the 1970s, rendering Victoria Dock redundant.
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During the 1980s, Docklands gradually fell into disuse and disrepair, as Port activity moved to Swanston Dock.
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Docklands Taskforce was established, responsible for preparing a long-term strategy for Docklands. This included coordinating previous work undertaken by a number of different Government agencies, as well as consultation with the community on proposed dev
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Docklands Authority Act 1991 was passed by Parliament. The Docklands Authority was established, replacing the Docklands Taskforce, to oversee redevelopment of Docklands, as the western extension of the Central City, enhancing its connection with the water
The Mission of the Docklands Authority was:
“…to promote, encourage and co-ordinate the successful development of Melbourne Docklands as a waterfront place of character and quality in which to live, work and visit, creating a tourism asset and a boost to Victoria”
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The Victorian Government released the “Docklands Strategy – Melbourne Docklands Strategy for Redevelopment” which recognises the importance of linking Melbourne to the Southbank and Victoria Harbour areas. Victoria Dock was regarded as the centrepiece of
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In February 1992, the Prime Minister’s Economic Statement “One Nation” provided a number of financial incentives for private sector investment in major infrastructure projects.
The Victorian Government stated that development must be demand-led and announced general guidelines, which had application to Docklands, for infrastructure projects which could be privately funded in full or in part.
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After a period of extensive consultation with the community and key stakeholders, “A plan for Docklands” was released, with a commitment made by the State Government to develop the area.
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The Docklands Authority parcelled up the neighbourhood into separate development precincts, which were released to the market in 1996 for staged development programme.
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The first Development Agreement was signed for the stadium (now known as Marvel Stadium) and construction commenced. Yarra’s Edge Development Agreement signed was by Mirvac.
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The Victorian Government announced the transfer of local government powers and municipal management functions from City of Melbourne to the Docklands Authority. MAB NewQuay Development Agreement signed.
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Seven Network signed for Broadcast Centre.
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New expression of interest called for Batman’s Hill and Victoria Harbour Precincts following the termination of the Development Agreement with Grollo Tower for Batman’s Hill Precinct, and the withdrawal of Victoria Harbour Consortium from Victoria Harbour
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The stadium (now known as Marvel Stadium), La Trobe Street bridge and Bourke Street bridge open.
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Construction begins on MAB NewQuay first two stages of apartments.
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Mirvac launch Yarra’s Edge proposal.
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Conditional Development Agreement with Studio City is terminated after an unsuccessful public equity raising for proposed theme park, film and TV studios and water leisure development.
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‘Cow Up A Tree’ artwork by John Kelly is unveiled on Harbour Esplanade.
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LendLease are awarded redevelopment rights for Victoria Harbour.
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NAB new ‘office campus’ project commences construction.
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Webb Bridge opens, and construction of NAB office commences.
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The Docklands Authority merges with the Urban and Regional Land Corporation to become VicUrban (now known as Development Victoria).
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City Circle tram is extended through Docklands.
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Collins Street bridge opens, extending Collins Street into Docklands.
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NAB office opens.
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Tram lines are extended to north west Docklands.
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Construction starts on ANX headquarters.
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Municipal powers are transferred from VicUrban (now known as Development Victoria) to the City of Melbourne.
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Harbour Town Shopping Centre (now known as The District Docklands) opens.
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The Harbour Family and Children’s Centre opens.
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Docklands Community and Place Plan is launched
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Docklands multi-purpose sports courts open at The Hub @ Docklands.
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Docklands Community and Place Plan released
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Library at The Dock opens
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Ron Barassi Senior Park Stage 1 is complete
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Harbour Esplanade Masterplan is released
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Community Hub at The Dock opens
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Places Victoria and Major Projects Victoria merge to form Development Victoria.
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Port Phillip Ferries commences services from Portarlington to Docklands, docking in Victoria Harbour.
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The Docklands Representative Group is formed, transitioning away from Development Victoria and City of Melbourne led Docklands Community Forum.
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Central Pier closes
28 August 2019
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Beginning of COVID-19 pandemic
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Port Phillip Ferries expands services from Geelong to Docklands.
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Marvel Stadium redevelopment plans launched.
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Docklands Primary School opens.
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The Melbourne Star goes into liquidation.
Docklands image gallery
Historic documents library
Docklands has undergone significant transformation from the former docks and associated port-uses. At the time of development, Docklands was Australia’s largest construction project and the largest partnership between the Victorian Government and the private sector.. It has a prime waterfront location, combining residential accommodation, with office blocks, recreational areas, public promenades, restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, and a Stadium, which stretches out over 200 hectares of land and water just west of the CBD.
More than 16,000 residents now call Docklands home, although the pandemic led to a population dip as international students and others relocated. It’s a multicultural community with 68 per cent born overseas and 65 per cent speak a language other than English at home. Vertical living is ubiquitous to the precinct, with 97 per cent of residents live in a flat or apartment.
Nearly 1,200 businesses are located in Docklands, from small businesses and waterfront eateries to national headquarters for major businesses including NAB, ANZ, Myer, AXA, Bendigo Bank, Medibank Private and the Bureau of Meteorology.
With the urban renewal two-thirds complete, Docklands will continue to experience growth and change into the future, with figures projected:
- 16,058 residents in 2020 projected to increase to 31,361 residents by 2040 (+95.6 per cent change)
- 66,754 jobs in 2020 projected to increase to 92,386 jobs by 2040 (+38.4 per cent change)
In 2021, the City of Melbourne began working on the Neighbourhood Model featuring a Neighbourhood Planning Framework focussing on listening to the voices of community and using these insights to help plan services, activities and investments.
Through community consultations held earlier this year, we have been able to identify 17 Neighbourhood Priorities for Docklands, with further consultation on these priorities happening in August and September this year.
The City of Melbourne recognises that Docklands is unique, with a number of key stakeholders invested in the future of the neighbourhood. The Summit provides an opportunity to bring together these stakeholders to workshop solutions and actions to collectively deliver, that align with the Neighbourhood Priorities.
The City of Melbourne will continue to engage with the community on the outcomes of the Summit through the Docklands Neighbourhood Planning Framework.
Follow Participate Docklands to stay up to date on everything related to Docklands and the outcomes of the Summit.
The Docklands Community and Place Plan was released in July 2012, as a combined initiative of the City of Melbourne and Development Victoria. The document focuses on the delivery of community infrastructure and strategic initiatives through the continued development of Docklands.
The plan sets out 73 community priorities that include the delivery of specific project based infrastructure as well as broader strategic objectives for Docklands. These priorities reflect 18 months engagement with the community and stakeholders in Docklands.
More than 96% of the actions in the plan have been completed, including the delivery of:
- The Library at the Dock
- The Community Hub at the Dock
- Ron Barassi Senior Park
- The Docklands Primary School
- Yarra’s Edge Community Space.
The City of Melbourne and Development Victoria recognise that the ongoing strategic items, for which active advocacy and delivery support, will be ongoing as the community grows and evolves.
Go to Docklands Community and Place Plan for more information.
Places Victoria (now Development Victoria), in collaboration with the City of Melbourne, undertook extensive community consultation in 2014 which informed the preparation of the Harbour Esplanade Masterplan in 2015. The purpose of this document is to define a vision for the redevelopment of Harbour Esplanade.
Based on community feedback the following key principles for Harbour Esplanade were developed:
- protect key views
- create a heritage heart
- optimise deep soil planting opportunities
- increase water activation
- create a new stadium edge
- provide wind protection and shelter.
The Vision and Urban Design Principles that underpins the Harbour Esplanade Masterplan sets the foundation and scope for future detailed design work. A Future Melbourne Committee on 17 June 2015, the City of Melbourne issued a planning permit (TP-2014-1072) which gave approval to the Harbour Esplanade Masterplan subject to conditions. The permit requires plans to be submitted for endorsement prior to construction of each stage of development.
At this stage, only plans for the wharf demolition/rectification works have been progressed.
The MPS is the overarching strategic planning policy for the municipality. It establishes the vision and strategic direction for future land use and development for the municipality over the next 10-20 years. It incorporates the vision and objectives of Council’s strategies, plans, policies and responses to emerging issues.
The Draft CSP is a background document to the MPS.
As a local area, the MPS and CSP establish a vision for Docklands:
“Docklands will embrace its distinct waterfront location and evolve as a place for people to live, work and visit. Docklands will see a greater diversity of uses, a high-quality and comfortable public realm and improved connections with surrounding areas.”
The MPS also identifies housing, economic development, built environment and heritage, urban design, transport and open space strategies specific to Docklands.
On 19 July, Council’s Future Melbourne Committee endorsed to request authorisation from the Minister for Planning under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, to prepare and exhibit an amendment to the Melbourne Planning Scheme to incorporate the Melbourne Municipal Planning Strategy and endorsed the Draft City Spatial Plan.
Exhibition of the MPS will be undertaken once authorisation has been granted by the Minister for Planning. It is anticipated that this will occur in the second half of 2022. A full program of consultation will be undertaken including a series of information and briefing sessions for key stakeholders, residents and interest groups. The outcomes of the public exhibition will be reported to Future Melbourne Committee.
Find more information on the MPS and CSP.
During COVID-19 Docklands has been one of the hardest hit precincts in the country, which has been largely attributed to an absence of office workers, international students and visitors.
The impacts of COVID-19 has compounded the challenge of activation and vibrancy in Docklands, following the permanent closure of major landmarks like Central Pier in 2019 and Melbourne Star going into liquidation in 2021.
Historically, Dockland has had a vacancy rate of around 15-20 per cent, this is higher when compared to the rest of the municipality, which sits around 3-4 per cent. The impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions has seen Docklands vacancy rise to 42 per cent (May 2021) which is higher than during the Global Financial Crisis, which saw vacancy rates rise to 25-30 per cent. This is significant when compared to 19 per cent vacancy rate within Melbourne CBD (May 2021).
On 7 December 2021, New Quay pedestrian activity was down 49.2 per cent when compared to the 2019 pre-pandemic benchmark period.
We are seeing recovering in Docklands with the average monthly pedestrian activity near New Quay in June 2022 at 42 per cent which is significantly higher when compared to June 2021 (when Melbourne was in lockdown 5.0). This is still lower when compared to 63 per cent of the pre-COVID benchmark.
In June 2022 visitor spend in Docklands increased from May 2022, up 1 per cent or just over $800,000. Total visitor spend for June 2022 was $66 million, up 121 per cent from June 2021 (when Melbourne was in lockdown 5.0) when spend was $30 million, and up 7 per cent on June 2019 (pre-COVID) when spend was $63 million.
Visitors contribute the most to expenditure, representing 89 per cent of the total spend ($75 million). The largest spend category was on Dining & Entertainment, making up 35 per cent or just under $24 million of expenditure across the Docklands in June 2022.
In June 2022, 55 per cent of spend by residents and visitors in the Docklands was during work hours. Night time spend by residents and visitors in Docklands for June 2022 was $18 million, higher when compared to 9 per cent in June 2019. Night-time spend in Docklands has exceeded pre-COVID 2019 levels for the last four months (March to June 2022). Dining and entertainment was the largest contributor to night-time spend with 52 per cent for June 2022. Night-time spend in Docklands in 2022 was highest on Friday 20 May 2022, the highest spend since November 2019.
Shopfront vacancies in the Docklands (taken from CLUE data) was 30 per cent in June 2022, an improvement compared to December 2021 when 39 per cent of shopfronts were either vacant or closed due to COVID.
The Design Excellence and Advisory Committee (DEAC) provides a platform for industry, academia, and community members to engage with a range of design challenges and opportunities in the city.
The DEAC comprises of 8 technical experts in the field of design, planning and property and up to 4 community members. A City of Melbourne Councillor (Chair of the City Planning Portfolio) and an alternate chair (Deputy Chair – Director City Design) convene DEAC meetings.
A DEAC meeting was hosted in Docklands on 10 May 2022. This meeting included:
- A short walking tour of Victoria Harbour Promenade;
- Roundtable discussions focusing on the role of design in creating successful places; and
- A City of Focus presentation which took a deep dive look at urban renewal in Shanghai.
Below is a list of priorities that resulted from the roundtable discussions:
- Deliver a revitalised, premier civic waterfront that prioritises recreation, active transport, shade and connection to water.
- Embed the major waterways of Yarra River – Birrarung and Moonee Ponds Creek into the character and experience of the public realm in Docklands through high quality pedestrian connections and renewed open spaces along the water’s edge.
- Identify and implement new activities and experiences to service the existing population and draw visitors into the precinct.
- Identify and implement creative uses in vacant ground floor tenancies along the waterfront to activate the public realm along the waterfront.
- Improve pedestrian and cycle connections between Docklands precincts, the Central City and surrounding neighbourhoods.
These priorities will be discussed in more detail at the Docklands Summit. Go to Design Excellence Program for more information.
This is a program funded in partnership with the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government to support new businesses and reinvigorate areas hit hardest by COVID-19 closures. The program is being delivered in 3 areas that were identified in a May 2021 audit, as experiencing significantly high vacancy rates – Lygon Street in Carlton, Docklands and Melbourne CBD. The program aims to transform empty shopfronts into creative spaces, bespoke displays and pop-up shops by giving low or no cost space to artists, budding entrepreneurs and artisan makers.
Renew Australia was selected for Docklands, and is working closely with key stakeholders, including the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, The District Docklands and major property owners like LendLease. There are currently 10 activations currently operating in the precinct, with plans for another 15 opening by the end of 2022.
The current activations include:
- Beauty product manufacturers WORKS located at 889 Collins Street
- Fashion designers laGuapa Outerwear at 888 Collins Street
- Artists Chris Bowes and Oz Grav at 883 Collins Street and Collide Public Art at 877 Collins Street;
- Art installation Collide Public Art at 426 Docklands Drive.
For more information on the program, go to Shopfront Activation Program.
Through the City of Melbourne’s Events Partnership Program 80 events are delivered across the municipality each year to provide a balanced calendar of activity, this includes events such as the Italian Festa, Run Melbourne, and major events like the Australian Open – all shapes and sizes.
In the past 12 months, the City has hosted the following events in and around Docklands:
- The online Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (August 2021)
- Ride2Work Day Community Breakfast (November 2021) which attracted 800 attendees
- Ride2Work Day Community Breakfast (April 2022) which attracted 500 attendees
- Melbourne Renegades Super Clinic which attracted 505 attendees
- Herald Sun/Transurban Run for the Kids which attracted 16,491 attendees
City of Melbourne also delivered a Christmas Festival Maze which was extremely popular with young families. Over the four week activation in the lead up to Christmas more than 25,000 visitors got lost in the maze with 13,000 people entering the competition to win one of four Docklands prize packs.
The Summer Nights Drone Show was held over the summer, which saw night-time activity soar, from Saturday 15 January to Saturday 5 February, average night-time activity was at 121.3 per cent of pre-COVID levels. Activity was highest on Saturday 22 January, reaching 193.6 per cent of pre-COVID levels. More than 105,000 people visited the Docklands precinct to see the drones fly over 22 nights to see the drones fly over Victoria Harbour, delivering an average spend of $118 per person and total economic impact of $5.4 million.
The Playground returned to Docklands over the Easter school holidays. This colourful and fun-filled activation added creative play spaces, face painting, roving entertainment, arts and crafts, and more. The pop-up immersive play space was a popular attraction for residents and visitors alike, having drawn more than 20,000 people in over four days. The total economic impact was more than $380,000. From Thursday 21 April to Sunday 24 April 2022, average daily activity in New Quay was at 122.8 per cent of pre-COVID levels. Activity was highest on Sunday 24 April, reaching 153.1 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
And after a two-year hiatus, Firelight Festival returned, with almost 100,000 attendees over three fiery nights – a 20 per cent increase in attendance compared with 2019. Average evening pedestrian activity in the precinct was 59 per cent above levels during the 2019 Firelight Festival.
The City of Melbourne’s $300 million Greenline project will transform the north bank of the Yarra River – Birrarung improving connections from the City to Docklands via an inspiring public waterfront. This project will include upgraded parks, pedestrian bridges, boardwalks and native plants all the way from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge, with off-shoots guiding pedestrians straight into key precincts.
A continuous green link will bring Docklands closer to the water, connecting new parks and celebrating Aboriginal culture and heritage. It will be the largest network of green spaces in central Melbourne, with a six-metre wide promenade and a new public park at Seafarers Rest. For more information go to the Greenline Implementation Plan.
The following provides a snapshot of the key services delivered by the City of Melbourne in Docklands:
- Childcare and Family Services
- Childcare in Docklands is provided by Gowrie @ The Harbour. This is a City of Melbourne facility, leased to Gowrie Victoria, which provides 150-place education and care centre integrated kindergarten.
- Family services are provided at Community Hub @ The Dock including family, maternal and child health, immunisation, family support, counselling and parenting support.
- Libraries and Community Spaces
- The Library at The Dock provides loans of books and other materials to approximately 3,200 members. At the library a makerspace is also provided that offers equipment such as 3D printers, sewing machines, tools, media computers and creative programming. The library also offers seven bookable community spaces, 120 seat performance space, recording studio and equipment.
- The Community Hub @ The Dock provides bookable community spaces and the Boating Hub.
- Parks & Open Spaces
- City of Melbourne manages and maintains many public spaces in Docklands including Adela Lane Reserve, Buluk Park, Collins Landing, Hub @ Docklands, Docklands Park, Forge Apartments/The Wharf Club, Harbour Esplanade (131-141), New Quay Promenade, New Quay Central Park, Point Park, Quay Park, River Esplanade, Ron Barassi Senior Park, Seafarers Rest, Spencer Street Plaza, Victoria Green, Victoria Harbour Promenade, Webb Bridge Reserve, Wharfs Landing and Yarra’s Edge.
- Sporting & Recreation Venues
- The City of Melbourne manages the Melbourne City Marina, Melbourne's largest visitor berthing facility.
- The Council also directly manage the Yarra’s Edge Marina and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the waterways, allocation and licensing of berths and marina leases management.
- The Community Boating Hub is also managed by City of Melbourne and provides licenses for boating organisations to use the Hub as a base for dragon boating, sailing and outrigger canoes.
- The Docklands Sports Courts is a synthetic multi-use sport facility which can be booked for use or is otherwise accessible open space for public use.
- Ron Barassi Senior Park is home to the Docklands Sports Club comprising of approximately 100 junior sport participants. Docklands Sports Club runs junior programs in soccer, cricket and AFL. Ron Barassi Senior Park is also available for casual bookings and events.
- The Hub @ Docklands is a community recreation facility supporting a range of recreation programs.
Roles and responsibilities
Roles and responsibilities
In 1991 the Docklands Act was gazetted with the purpose to facilitate the development of Docklands. The Docklands Authority (now Development Victoria) was established to oversee the regeneration of Docklands. Municipal powers, including planning, were transferred from the City of Melbourne to the Docklands Authority in 1997.
In 2007, municipal powers were transferred back to the City of Melbourne and progressively since this time, land within Docklands reserved under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 has been transferred back to the Crown, for management by the City of Melbourne.
While some properties have been transferred back to the Crown, this is not the case for all public realm land within Docklands. The surrender of land by Development Victoria to the Crown is a complex and difficult process due to:
- the complexities associated with section 67 of the Docklands Act 1991 which outlines the process by which land vested in Development Victoria is surrendered to the Crown;
- the age of assets that require repairs to the City of Melbourne’s satisfaction before the City is appointed as the Committee of Management; and
- locating historical handover information that in some cases is more than 10 years old.
Development Victoria was established in 2017, as a merger of Places Victoria and Major Projects Victoria. Development Victoria as an entity of the Victorian Government operates under the Development Victoria Act 2003 which outlines the powers and objectives in relation to Docklands area.
These powers are further detailed in the Docklands Act 1991, which under Section 9(1) outlines Development Victoria’s primary objective is “to promote, encourage and facilitate development of the docklands area”.
Development Victoria are given the following functions under Section 10 of the Act:
a) to develop the docklands area;
b) to promote and encourage the involvement of the private sector in that development;
c) to oversee and co-ordinate the development by others of the docklands area;
d) to investigate development options and prepare and implement development strategies;
e) to investigate infrastructure options and prepare and implement plans for infrastructure co-ordination;
f) to take, support or promote measures to encourage people to live and work in the area;
g) to take, support or promote measures to create in the area an attractive environment;
h) to encourage appropriate public involvement in that development;
i) to promote, assist in and co-ordinate the economic, cultural and social development of the docklands area;
j) to facilitate and, with the consent of the Minister administering the Port Management Act 1995, plan and implement the reorganization of port facilities;
k) to facilitate and, with the consent of the Minister administering the Transport Act 1983, plan and implement the reorganization of transport facilities;
l) to promote tourism to, in or for the benefit of the docklands area;
la) to promote recreational, social and cultural activities in or for the benefit of the docklands area;
m) to perform any other functions conferred on it—
i. by or under this Act; or
ii. by or under any other Act in relation to the docklands area.
Development Victoria is therefore responsible for managing the Docklands urban renewal project, through partnerships with private developers via Development Agreements.
Land is generally developed on an individual building or stage basis, in response to market demand. Land ownership is transferred from Development Victoria to the developer once the conditions of the Development Agreement have been met. Upon receiving the title to a parcel of land, the developer can begin construction.
The City of Melbourne is the Municipal Authority and is responsible for maintaining public realm where ownership has been transferred back to Council or where Council is managing Crown land on behalf of the Victorian Government. While some public realm has been transferred back to the Crown, for the City of Melbourne management, this is not the case for all public realm within Docklands.
The City of Melbourne is also responsible for the management of the public marinas and berths within Victoria Harbour, as well as all other local municipal functions such maintenance of local roads, waste disposal and enforcement matters.
The City of Melbourne is also the Responsible Authority for issuing planning permits for developments less than 25,000m² gross floor area within Docklands. For planning permits with a higher gross floor areas, the Responsible Authority is the Minister for Planning, administered by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Development Victoria is a Referral Authority for all planning applications in Docklands under the Melbourne Planning Scheme.
There are a number of stakeholders which have vested interests in Docklands. Below provides a high level overview of each organisation and their predominant priority and role in Docklands:
- Heritage Victoria – all land affected by a State Heritage listing requires the approval of Heritage Victoria, this includes Victoria Harbour water
- Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning – the Responsible Authority for all applications more than 25,000m² gross floor area
- Melbourne Water – manages and protects Melbourne's major water resources, so all development and activities that have an impact on the water must be referred for approval
- Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions – the lead agency responsible for the strategic planning and delivery of Docklands as a Business Precinct
- Department of Transport – the lead agency responsible for strategic planning and delivery of Central Pier. The Department of Transport is also responsible for major transport infrastructure and serving including roads, rail, bus and train.
- Parks Victoria – responsible for managing land and marine parks which are within State reserves, this includes working in partnership with other government and non-government organisations such as catchment management authorities, private land owners, friends groups, volunteers, licensed tour operators, lessees, research institutes and the broader community.
Depending on the location and scale of a project or activity, a proposal may involve a number of these stakeholders which adds to the complexities of redevelopment and revitalisation of Docklands.